Purple Magazine
— S/S 2017 issue 27

Inspiration

By ANGELO FLACCAVENTO

Considering that it is some sort of highly irrational burst, if not a downright divine enlightenment urging a creator to, well, create, inspiration looks kinda codified of late. You can tell exactly where it comes from and follow its twists and turns in fastidious detail, despite the foggy narrative that keeps being built around it. Inspirations, so it seems, are sold by the ounce in the supermarket of contemporary creation. And they are more or less the same, everywhere and for everyone.

This is a riddle. While fashion designers are a bunch of self-obsessed individuals who oftentimes mistake a flimsy layer of varnish applied onto a piece of sorrowing nothingness for a reinvented wheel, they do not seem to be particularly ashamed of sharing their esoteric inspirations with their peers. They pillage from the same sources. As a result, originality keeps being flushed down the drain. What’s trumpeted as far-flung and exclusive, in fact, comes across as actually very common. That’s today, you know.

Originality demands the time to listen to one’s self, which in these days is a privilege. Otherwise, homogenization looms over a situation for which I’m not blaming anyone but the bosses who run the system and have turned a creative industry into a financial district clogging the planet with soulless products. Everything runs so fast, and the pressure to deliver novelties is so overwhelming, that there is really no time for proper inspirations to be nurtured. One just grabs them as fast as possible. In a way, it’s always been like this. We all live in the same age and are exposed to the same stimuli. Yet designers, nowadays, are exploring only the immediately available and easily accessible ones. Want to forecast the imminent future of fashion? There’s no need to bring the muses in or delve into some kind of divinatory trance. Just buy the ticket to the exhibition du moment, keep an eye on the blockbuster, flip through the trendy magazines, and that’s it. The evidence is glaring. How come everybody is into pleating this season? Why has everybody discovered or rather rediscovered the pleasures of the oversized? How come ugly beauty, gender bending, and whatever else are so desperately au courant all of a sudden? Is it real inspiration or just another whiff of the pervading, intruding, and unavoidable air du temps? None of the above, yet, puzzlingly, all of the above. The plissé? That’s Issey Miyake, you know, who had a massive retrospective in Tokyo last spring. Robert Mapplethorpe? The Mapplethorpe Foundation is doing a good job of capitalizing on the estate. Otherwise, inspiration simply comes from replicating what other designers, crowned as trendsetters, are doing. Again, it’s always been like this. Even YSL owed the inspiration for his infamous collection du scandale to what Ossie Clark was crafting in London. Copying: that’s an apt synonym for inspiration. What’s lacking, today, is the ability, or probably just the will, to bring things to another level because it takes time, guts, and effort. That would make a difference.

There is more, in fact. Inspiration is not only a creative act, or better, the start of a creative act. It also fuels communication, connected to the product as a narrative concocted to give nuance, add mystique, and ultimately sell. In this sense, things look even worse, but the reason is just the same: a lack of time and a general refusal of everything that requires an effort. With the pressure of delivering easily sellable products, in fact, comes the urge to develop inspirations in the easiest way possible: everything has to be literal because the viewer needs be guided into buying, no extra thinking needed. The pairing is devilish: you see a collection’s mood board, look at the clothes, and the effect is a logical conclusion, not an invention. Shakespeare is on the designer’s mind? Elizabethan frills are sent down the catwalk. Africa is the inspiration du jour? Wax prints and cornrows ensue. Feminism is trumpeted as the new message? Slogan t-shirts abound.

Don’t get me wrong. There is nothing bad, per se, in being literal. But there are many ways to do it. Inspiration, after all, is a journey, of which the starting point, not the destination, is known — even when the end of the path is just around the corner. That’s what’s exciting about creation: it’s an act of discovery and self-discovery. There have always been designers who quoted the past quite literally — Monsieur Dior’s New Look, anyone? — but they always went a step, or 10, further. Not anymore, it seems.

Whom should we blame for this? The Internet, maybe, where everything is readily available, copyright-free, and thought-averse. Fashion creation today, like creation in general, depends heavily on the Web. To start a new collection, designers once took trips to far-flung, exotic or off-the-beaten-track locations, or simply to the well-equipped library down the street. Now, because of the bulk of work and the paucity of time, they do most of their visual research online, quickly: on Tumblr or Pinterest. The inspirational exhibitions I mentioned above, most likely, have just been consumed on a screen. What ensues is flattening. And unflattering.

Themeless, at this point, sounds much more engaging. Fashion design, after all, produces clothing, which consists of useful objects laden with meanings that can rewrite perceptions, relations, and postures. That’s a lot. A starting point or an inspiration is mandatory, that’s for sure, yet it’s so much deeper if they disappear, morph, or twist along the way, becoming barely perceptible. In this era of literal thinking, abstraction sounds fresh and engaging, as it keeps the mind alive and gaming. That’s what I want: clothes I can wear while I try guessing where the hell they sprung from, enjoying their themelessness. This is inspiring, isn’t it?

[Table of contents]

S/S 2017 issue 27

Table of contents

purple NEWS

purple BEST OF THE SEASON

purple INTERVIEW

purple FASHION WOMEN

purple FASHION MEN

purple DOCUMENT

purple ARCHITECTURE

purple BEAUTY

purple LOVE

purple SEX

purple TRAVEL

purple PHILOSOPHY

purple STORY

purple VISUAL ESSAY

Subscribe to our newsletter